I’ve never had a strong desire to own a business. Relatively new to the workforce, I’ve spent the last three years working a typical marketing job at a few companies and learning about how organizations of various sizes run. So, at 24 years old, how did I find myself starting my own Digital Marketing company?
For some, they may have always planned on starting some kind of a business. When asked how she began her own business, former RYP Co-President Pauleen of Pauleen Anne Design, stated that “when I was looking for the job I wanted, it wasn’t available to me, so I decided to create it.“
After an opportunity to freelance fell into my lap, I began to learn more about my strengths as a marketer and consultant. That’s when I decided to expand into something more than just freelancing for a single company. While I’m keeping my day job, I’ve been able to customize my company so that I can choose my own hours. Depending on time-sensitive projects, you can find me meeting with clients right after work and getting some of my best output completed around 10:00pm at night. Choosing my own hours is one of my favorite aspects of being my own boss.
If you are interested in starting your own company, the following steps can guide you through the beginning stages of generating ideas and identifying potential roadblocks to consider.
- Determine your differentiating skill set, and identify if there is a need.
Is there a need for the services you’re willing to offer? And if so, what would make you stand out among various agencies or companies that might offer a similar product?
Consider differentiating yourself by highlighting your personal experiences or your unique traits and skills.
Identifying yourself as a woman-owned business, for example, can be a deciding factor for many companies looking to hire external service providers. In fact, “more and more Fortune 500 companies want to support women-owned businesses.” (Greenbiz.com) (Please make sure you receive all necessary certifications in order to advertise yourself as a WBE, Woman-Owned Business Enterprise).
Perhaps your differentiator is that you have many years of experience in non-profits, or that you’re willing to offer your services for a fraction of the cost of a larger agency or company. Make sure that you are aware of what you can provide your customers, and research what you can do to make yourself stand out.
- Research financial, tax, and certification information.
Building up a company from scratch isn’t cheap, and there are a lot of things to consider.
Along with a business license, you can expect to make business purchases such as computers and other tangible accessories, as well as materials such as website domains and hosting, business cards, and software programs.
Fortunately, this can be advantageous when it comes time to do taxes for your company. Business owners are able to write certain business expenses off, which means potentially a lower cost of taxes.
Without any previous experience running or owning a business, I made sure to work with my accountant to learn best practices and rules that I should follow to best run my company.
- Find a mentor or advisor.
Do you have a family member or friend that owns their own business? A great way to start taking steps in the right direction is to have a conversation with them. What were their biggest challenges? Do they have any tips or ideas for you?
My cousin started his own photography business about ten years ago, and jumped at the chance to have a conversation about owning and running your own business. He has been an incredibly supportive asset thus far.
- Brand yourself!
To fully brand yourself, create a unique and memorable business name, make business cards to distribute at local events and conferences, and build a website.
In order to jump-start your online presence and company branding, consider finding fellow young professionals in the fields of marketing, web design and graphic design who can help you with the first steps. Rochester Young Professional events are great opportunities to collaborate and identify people who can work with you.
- Spread the word.
It’s time to actually find clients. Network in the community and at RYP events, reach out to personal contacts, and advertise your services via social media and possibly paid advertising. Pauleen of Pauleen Anne Design found her initial clients by giving away services for free at first, and building her reputation from there.
An interesting idea that I’ve been dabbling with is collaborating with other young professionals with complementary services. As a marketer, I work with local graphic designers and web developers to offer clients expanded services.
- Document everything.
I learned early on that to successfully run a business, you need to document everything. By saving all of your bills, invoices, and receipts, you are not only better prepared for tax season, but you can also protect yourself in case you ever get audited by the Internal Revenue Service.
My personal form of organization is a docket that has each area of documentation separated into bills, invoices, and receipts. It’s also easier to consolidate everything when tax season rolls around and I have to meet with my accountant.
Owning a business is not for everyone, but studies have shown that “millennial business owners are the most prepared and forward-focused in the market.” (Forbes) So go ahead, young professionals, show the world who’s boss!